Calling all start-ups and small business owners…

Entrepreneurship Day 2020 is less than two weeks away. This one-day event, held at the impressive Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing & Technology (SiMT) in Florence, SC, attracts attendees from across South Carolina and neighboring states who want to learn from leading professionals about topics like marketing, funding, best business practices and more.

This year’s event boasts an all-star lineup of speakers, from a USC graduate who developed a robot that’s dubbed “the first A.I. tutor” to a Florida-based Internet marketing expert who started her agency before social media and has since trademarked a way for entrepreneurs to “organize the Internet.”

When: January 29, 2020
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM EST
Where: Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing & Technology, 951 Pisgah Rd, Florence, SC 29502

Register Here

Session Outlines


How to Market Like a Pro… Without Being Confused or Overwhelmed

JenniferGoodwin-Internet-Marketing Keynote Speaker Jennifer Goodwin is an Internet marketing expert and agency owner with 23 years of experience who is traveling from Jacksonville, Florida, to share her trademarked 5-phase marketing formula, TheGoodwinMethod™. It takes the guesswork out of marketing by teaching startups and entrepreneurs how to organize all the pieces (online and off, free and paid), so your business can be found everywhere without wasting time and money. Jennifer has spent over two decades scaling companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Accenture and thousands of small to medium businesses. During her presentation, she’ll show you how to create a complete road-map that guides you throughout the year, filling the gaps in your business marketing to create immediate and long-term results. Afterward, Duane Childers, Manager of SiMT’s Social Media Listening Center, will show you the latest technology they offer to provide marketing research for entrepreneurs.

Story of a Startup: ABii, The Smart Robot Tutor

 Featured Speaker Laura Boccanfuso, CEO at Vän Roboticswill share her success story that starts with a main character named ABii, a smart robot that complements classroom learning, or can be used to facilitate learning at home. Vän Robotics is revolutionizing student learning by combining artificial intelligence and proven teaching techniques into friendly, approachable, and funny robots. ABii is the first artificial intelligence tutor and was created by Ms. Boccanfuso, Ph.D., based on ten years of research at University of South Carolina and Yale University and her passion for integrating technology into the classroom. The innovative, Columbia-based company was accepted into SCRA’s entrepreneurial program, SC Launch, in January 2017. In addition to the recent, $200,000 SC Launch, Inc. investment in 2019, Vän Robotics received three grants from SCRA to build a prototype that was used in product testing to get user feedback and to conduct larger consumer tests. The investment will be used to manufacture the company’s first 700 consumer robots.

Crafting the Art of the Pitch

Featured Speaker Charlie Banks will be sharing insight on “The Art of the Pitch.” Charlie Banks is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of VentureSouth, one of the country’s largest early stage investment firms. VentureSouth has invested nearly $50M in over 70 companies throughout the last decade. Charlie also serves as the Executive Director of Venture Carolina, a sister, nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive investor and entrepreneur education.

How to Start Your Startup

Doug Kim, founding partner of the Kim & Lahey Law Firm, will discuss  everything you need to know to start your new business on solid ground, including: How to form your company in a way that will protect yourself and your family, from naming your company to deciding between an LLC or S Corp; Relationships are only as good as the contract. You’ll need to learn how to have good, solid contracts that not only protect your business, but also help manage expectations;  Intellectual Property 101 – Learn how to protect yourself and avoid disputes with others through trademarks and copyrights. Doug has been practicing law for 22 years and was recently selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2020 in the fields of Patent Law and Trademark Law in Greenville, SC.

Developing a New Product and Taking It to Market

 Kevin Weir is the Director of Business Development at General Graphene Corporation, Knoxville TN. Kevin’s goal is to direct the company’s advanced technology, capabilities and resources toward collaborative partnerships with innovative companies who possess application expertise and market access. Kevin directs the management of several joint product development and commercialization ventures which will deliver cutting-edge solutions into the electronics, energy storage and medical markets. As an entrepreneur, Kevin opened Innovation management companies in Germany and the US, where he led several new technology development projects for fortune 100 and 500 chemical companies. Beyond his current job, Kevin helps local start-up companies raise capital, secure grants, develop technology, formulate business plans and build commercial partnerships. 

Winning Small Business Innovation Research & Technology Transfer Grants & Contracts

 Guest Speaker Christine Dixon Thiesing will educate attendees about the regional resources & services offered through the South Carolina Research Authority. Ms. Thiesing, MBA, is Director of Academic Innovations for SCRA. It’s a public, non-profit corporation, that fosters South Carolina’s innovation economy by supporting entrepreneurs, enabling academic applied research, and connecting industry to innovators. SCRA Academic Innovations is charged with maximizing the economic impact of South Carolina’s institutions of higher education. Through grants, mentoring, and networking, Academic Innovations cultivates academic startups, bolsters the research infrastructure, and fosters collaborations between academia and industry to grow the state’s knowledge economy.

Finding Alternative Funding Sources

Savannah Wilburn is a Lender Relations Specialist and Public Information Officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration South Carolina District Office. Savannah is responsible for marketing the SBA’s capital, contracting, and counseling programs. She provides small business trainings throughout the state covering topics on small business loans, business plans, and starting a small business.

Paul W. Schmitt is a Credit Manager for CommunityWorks, where he underwrites small business loans and oversees the lending team. Paul has 37 years experience as a commercial banker and joined CommunityWorks in May, 2019. CommunityWorks is a non-profit financial organization committed to building a brighter future for underserved communities. Entrepreneurs who partner with CommunityWorks can qualify for one-on-one business coaching, business training opportunities, and may qualify for loans up to $250,000. CommunityWorks has assisted with nearly $4,000,000 in small business loans in South Carolina since 2008.


$10,000 Business Idea Competition for College Students in the Pee Dee

This session introduces students to the 4th Annual Pee Dee Idea Challenge, a business idea competition for all students currently enrolled at Coastal Carolina Community College, Coker University, Florence-Darlington Technical College, Francis Marion University, and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.  Develop and pitch a new business idea for your shot at $10,000 in cash prizes! This mini-workshop will help students get started. It will be lead by Dr. Hari Rajagopalan, Francis Marion University, Dr. Andrew Burkemper, Coker University, Peter Gasca, Coastal Carolina University, and Steven Weingartner, FDTC.